FC Bayern won Sunday's meeting with Darmstadt 1-0, reclaiming top spot in the Bundesliga table after a tight and hard-fought match. Douglas Costa scored what proved to be the match-winner midway through the second half, driving home from fully 30 yards. The Bavarians will take heart from the ultimately deserved success before Wednesday's top clash with second-placed RB Leipzig.
The champions lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal behind a back four comprising Rafinha, Javi Martínez, Mats Hummels and Juan Bernat. Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal took up station in midfield behind Thomas Müller, Thiago, Costa and lone striker Robert Lewandowski. Rafinha replaced Philipp Lahm at short notice as the Bayern captain sustained a knock during the warm-up.
Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to the XI that downed Wolfsburg last weekend. Apart from Rafinha for Lahm, it was Hummels, Alonso and Costa replacing Juan Bernat, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. Ribéry came on for Vidal after the hour mark, whereas Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches took over from Müller and Costa in the closing stages.
The 17,468 capacity crowd at Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion saw the German record champions dominate possession, but the hosts were stronger in one-on-ones and had more shots on goal at first. The first chance fell to the home team after 30 seconds, when Bayern lost possession in midfield, but Thiago blocked Rosenthal's effort. Four minutes later Darmstadt midfielder Jan Rosenthal hit the side-netting following a corner.
Bayern stuggled to knit together anything of attacking note against the minnows, the niggle factor in the contest slowly rising. Shortly before half-time Hummels lost his balance in the hosts' box following a contact with Vrancic, but match official Bastian Dankert waved away any appeals. Lewandowski then fired a free-kick over the bar from 25 yards.
Costa saves Reds
Bayern upped the pace after the interval, Müller and Lewandowski missing presentable chances. Costa came to the rescue midway through the second half, netting a sumptuous 30-yard effort via the crossbar. Neuer then saved Gondorf's free-kick and Niemeyer's rebound with ten minutes to go.
The result means Bayern have 36 points from 15 matches, topping the table ahead of RB Leipzig, who are level on points. The Reds are back in action on Wednesday, when they entertain their closest pursuers in the mouth-watering top of the table clash.
Live match report for fcbayern.com by Gregor Salmen
SV Darmstadt - FC Bayern 0-1 (H-T: 0-0)
Esser - Fedetskyy, Niemeyer (Colak 78), Sulu, Holland - Gondorf, Vrancic - Sirigu, Heller - Rosenthal (Jungwirth 65) - Schipplock (Obinna 90+1)
Berezovskij - Guwara, Kleinheisler, Bezjak
Neuer - Rafinha, Martínez, Hummels, Bernat - Xabi Alonso, Vidal (Ribéry 69) - Müller (Kimmich 80), Thiago, Douglas Costa (Sanches 90+2), Lewandowski
Ulreich - Badstuber, Bernat
Bastian Dankert (Rostock)
0-1 Costa (71)
Rosenthal (43) / Hummels (75), Alonso (75)